It is been a while since I wrote about our local rail service – which is a good sign! My experience and that of most local rail users seems to be that the service has, albeit from a very low base, improved markedly this year.
I hope this will be part of an ongoing trend as GTR’s ‘Railplan 20/20’ to upgrade our service is rolled out.
A new timetable will be put in place across the network throughout May and June. This is the most wide ranging change in years and all train times will change.
Clearly no new timetable will work for everyone – and I have already raised specific concerns in the Commons. I am also aware that the first few weeks will bring with them all the potential for disruption inherent in any major change. However the new timetable should be a significant improvement.
New services will make travelling through London much easier, will massively improve connectivity with the Eurostar at St Pancras, will put us one change away from Cambridge and its rapidly developing “Silicon Fen” and provide a direct service straight through to Peterborough.
However the further test for me will be the increased resilience of the service. The timetable changes enable trains to be dedicated to one route, meaning that when disruption strikes this should no longer be felt across the entire network. Reliability should also be enhanced by the introduction of the new Class 700 Thameslink trains.
This must be part of an ongoing process of improvement. Our network was laid out in the Victorian era and much of our railway architecture dates from the same period. The Balcombe Tunnel is an amazing piece of 1840’s engineering but is still a critical point on the Thameslink line and is showing its age. Network Rail will be using the autumn half term to conduct a massive engineering programme on some of our lines. The short term disruption will be painful – the long term benefits in keeping trains to timetable across the region will be immense. The South-East has 30 per cent of all rail passengers the current investment is necessary, will bring benefits and we need to see it maintained.
Photo caption: With Billingshurst Royal British Legion (and the Horsham Sea Cadets) at Fishers Farm Park where they were thanking the many volunteers from Billingshurst and neighbouring villages that together raised over £14,000 last year for the Poppy Appeal.